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Lifetime Dedication Rewarded with Longleaf Pine

Some people have jobs. Paul Barrington has a passion. For more than 30 years he has dedicated his life to the care of thousands of animals and the smooth operation of one of the state’s most visited attractions, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

This fall, Barrington, Aquarium Associate Director, was recognized by the state of North Carolina, friends and colleagues for his enduring commitment. He received the state’s highest honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, which is bestowed on outstanding North Carolinians who have proven service to the State. In addition, the N.C. Aquarium Society and the N.C. Aquariums Division recognized Barrington’s devotion with a Lifetime Achievement Award and the inaugural “Paul Barrington Heart of the Sea” award.

Barrington has served in his current Aquarium position for 15 years. Originally from Scituate, Massachusetts, he joined the staff as the Aquarium Curator in 1985, when the facility was a fraction of its current size and still known as a Marine Science Center. Throughout the years, Barrington helped expand the Aquarium and its important mission of inspiring appreciation and conservation. He has long been sought as an expert for media interviews and by other zoos and aquariums as a resource for his skills and knowledge.

“Paul set high standards in every area of animal care and operations from the moment he walked through the door. So much of the Aquarium’s success over the years is due to Paul’s leadership, dedication, and creativity.” said Aquarium Director Peggy Sloan. “Fort Fisher is a better Aquarium, and its employees better people, because of Paul’s influence.”
It’s been said Barrington knows every bolt, valve and fish in the Aquarium. Venomous snakes, alligators and sharks have long been a routine part of his day. Barrington has also helped stranded whales, misguided seals and been a strong proponent for shark species and the role they play in a healthy ocean. An avid kayaker and catch and release fisherman, it’s not unusual to see him working and playing along the shore at Fort Fisher.

Though eligible to retire from the state with his 30 years of service, Barrington has no plans of doing so. On a recent morning, he monitored sharks swimming in the Aquarium’s largest exhibit, orchestrated the removal of a 400-pound acrylic viewing window in an aging exhibit and met to discuss money-saving repairs to be performed by an in-house team. For Barrington, it’s just another day doing what he’s always loved.

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